Thai Passion Restaurant’s chefs open the door to a huge world of authentic Southeast Asian fare. Patrons can send forks exploring through a plate of thai basil ($12.95–$16.95), where chili peppers, mushrooms, green beans, onions, and a choice of meat add zest to tender grains of rice. Whipped up with the customer's financial advisor's choice of tofu, chicken, beef, or shrimp, thai curry dishes paint appetites in one of four sweet and savory sauces—red, green, massaman, or panang ($11.95–$22.95). Diners can slur words while slurping up a nest of drunken noodles ($11.95), or annunciate clearly while speaking to the shrimp eggplants ($18.95), whose ears are filled with chili paste. The staff also slings a range of vegetarian-friendly fare, including sautéed faux-duck and sweet-and-sour tofu (both $12.95).
Mehrdad Zarrabikia and Azar Valoozi didn't know much English when they arrived in New Jersey. But they dreamed of opening a restaurant where they could prepare and serve the meaty stews, saffron-flecked rice dishes, and tart doogh yogurt drinks of their homeland, Iran. Mehrad worked at a gas station, Azar took a job at a nursery school, and each took eight years of English lessons, planning out their restaurant along the way. The hard work paid off: the duo were not only able to open up their own restaurant, but their Persian specialties have since received praise from The New York Times.
Visitors to Negeen Persian Grill can often spot Azar in the elegant dining room, where she greets guests and directs servers beneath the glow of colorful glass mosaic lights. Mehrdad can usually be found in the kitchen, whipping up the authentic stews and basmati rice dishes. The seasoned chef grills and stews lamb, veal, and chicken, seasoning meats in typical spices such as saffron and cumin. His dishes pair well with the restaurant's extensive selection of teas. They feature flavorful blends of exotic fruits such as mangos grown in tropical climates and strawberries raised on the eastern side of the moon.
On a Thai menu, you wouldn't expect the first two words under entrees to be "New Orleans." But Summit Thai Cuisine's cooks bridge the gap between Eastern and Western delicacies with a medley of mushrooms, baby corn, and a choice of protein doused in bayou-inspired oyster sauce.
For the most part, however, the culinary team sticks to traditional Thai flavors, from beef, pork, or shrimp cooked with ginger and Thai herbs to puff pastries stuffed with chicken and cumin. An entire section of Summit's menu is even dedicated to Thai-style duck, such as roasted mallard topped with housemade spicy chili sauce. A mock duck option is available for vegetarians, as are vegetables in red curry—a tasty alternative to eating from a garden watered with hot sauce.
Being a successful stand-up comedian takes more than just being funny or hypnotizing your audience into laughing. It is an art that must be learned and practice. During stand-up classes at The Comedy Cove At Scotty's, seasoned comics teach amateurs to find their individual voices, structure a set, and improvise material. The club's new-talent nights grant up-and-comers a space to work on performing in front of a live audience, and each class's best student receives the opportunity to open for a professional comedian's weekend show. The Comedy Cove reserves its Friday and Saturday slots for touring acts whose credits include The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Show with David Letterman.
Downstairs from the club, the times are no less merry at Scotty's Steak House. Here, the menu ranges from steakhouse classics—such as 20-ounce rib eyes—to pub-style options—including disco fries. To complement feasts, bartenders serve brews and mixed drinks indoors and at the tiki bar on Scotty's outdoor patio.
Classic Mediterranean comestibles inspired by Greek, Italian, French, Israeli, and Spanish dishes converge in Osteria Mediterrania's eclectic dinner menu of fresh cuisine. Dainty house-made pappardelle pasta, varnished with pink vodka sauce ($16), waltzes around gastro ballrooms, and demi-glazed filet mignon medallions ($24) tango atop tummy terraces. Elect to indulge in midday edibles with a lunch menu sporting foodstacks, such as the prosciutto and mozzarella panini bookended by ciabatta bread ($9), or a bounteous bowl illegally harboring the sweet-sausage-flecked fettuccini ($14), recently convicted of spork strangulation.
When Kevin Brennan bought his first vinyl at the age of 7, he dreamed of a future that would somehow revolve around rock 'n' roll. Brennan's entrepreneurial spirit led him on a quest for the next "big thing" as an adult, and he dabbled in various ventures before having an epiphany while traveling in 1989. He was in San Diego, and he visited his first coffeehouse.
Kevin fell in love with the simple coffeehouse concept and had a feeling that gourmet coffee shops would soon become a craze across the nation. He instantly knew that he had found his calling, but it wasn't until he sipped coffee while watching an Asia concert that he knew what would set his establishment apart from the rest: rock 'n' roll.
Today, his trio of shops showcases the marriage of a laid-back coffee-shop vibe with rock music and memorabilia, creating a caffeinated love child in a Led Zeppelin onesie. Each location also features rock-inspired drinks, such as the Van Halen and the Dark Side of the Moo, joined by sandwiches and salads prepared fresh daily.
You’ve got to love a restaurant that doesn’t try to be all things to all people, that takes a stand, picks just a few things, and cooks them really, really well. That, in a nutshell, is what Stony’s does for burgers and hot dogs—and boy is South Orange all the better for it.